Hey there! We just got back from our trip to Disney World, and we just wanted to let you know about our trip, some tips and tricks, and things to remember before we go back next time! We went with some family friends and the kiddos. Teagan (19 months) Olivia (8 years old) and Grayson (9 years old) were all along for the ride. Here are some of the things I will go into more detail about a little later.
First things first, the car ride! We started the trip in Grand Isle Louisiana because that is where Grayson is from. If you don’t know where Grand Isle is, it is at the very bottom of Louisiana. MapQuest says the ride should have taken 11 hours 25 minutes. We left at 8 am on a Summer Saturday. Having to go through every major city such as New Orleans, Gulfport, Mobile, Pensacola, Tallahassee, etc. we hit traffic EVERYWHERE! Not to mention having the two younger kids and an older gal – we had to stop a lot more than we had hoped. Taking us well over 14 hours to get there.
Island Star Resort
We stayed at the Island Star resort. It was pretty nice as far as vacation rentals go. I will start with the negatives because there weren’t many. The negatives were that the unit was pretty dated. (I come from a housekeeping exec background, so I am paid to notice these things! 😉 We stayed on the A and B side – the units did not match up; sink fixtures in the bathrooms, etc. The kitchen was fully stocked, but we couldn’t find a pizza pan anywhere. But that was it! Having both units made it perfect to give us all the space we needed after long days at the park. The other plusses were, it was close to Disney, the resort had a lot of amenities to offer. Golf, Tennis, Basketball, fishing, 2 swimming pools, pedal boats (we didn’t get to ride the pedal boats because they found an alligator in the lake the week before) but they had a spa with a Sauna and hot tub that was open to guests staying at the resort until 9. And after walking along the park all day – it was really nice to come back to. They also had restaurants on-site and a market that sold everything you could need including Disney Souvenirs!
Day #1 Resort Day
As a Florida resident, I got a deal on mine and the kids’ tickets. 3 days $200 a person (waterparks not included), babies under 2 get in free. Everyone else in our group got a 2-day pass because they had to spend the rest of the time at ESPN Wide World of Sports for the AAU basketball championship tournament. Our first day we decided would be a chill day. Hang by the pool, go mini-golfing, etc. It should also be known that this was at the time that Tropical Storm Barry was getting ready to come into the Gulf and hit Louisiana. So, the weather in Orlando was scattered storms the whole week we were there. Which was a welcome break in our day for the scorching hot summer days!
Day #2 Old Town & the Fun Spot
Monday ended up being another chill day because the basketball tournament kept the rest of our group extremely busy – and we all wanted to go to our first park together since Teahan and Grayson had never been. So on day #2 we hung out at the resort for the morning and then came across old town & the fun spot. Old Town was super cute. So many restaurants and cute things to do. You could spend an entire day in that place. They had this giant arcade that the kids just LOVED! A funny thing that I noticed in Old Town was that for every kid activity, there was a bar or daiquiri stand nearby. Attached to Old Town is the Fun Spot. It’s basically a giant fair. For $100 both kids could ride as many rides as they wanted until the park closed not only did they have barely any lines to stand in, but with these rainy days leaving us a little uncertain – if it starts raining within 90 minutes of you buying your passes – they will refund you and let you come back another day! It ended up not raining until we were there for a couple of hours – but we took a break, went back to the resort to grab a bite to eat and then came back. Parking was right at the entrance to the park, so we had our cooler in the car to be able to go back and forth for drinks. The kids got to ride every single ride at the park repeatedly. It was amazing, they had so much fun!
Day #3 Disney – Animal Kingdom
We were so pumped for our first day of Disney. We were at the park for 8:00 to be able to get our Animal Kingdom on. It cost us $45 to park because we got talked into paying for premier parking because the lady said that would be easier with a baby. It was nice to be able to park close, but after seeing that the other parking wasn’t that much farther, I probably wouldn’t do that again. Avatar was a family favorite. It was pretty insane to wait in line for 110 minutes to sit in the a/c for what felt like 5 minutes. But the spritz of water when you feel like you were flying in mid-air was awesome. The safari was also really cool. I recommend going during the morning and then in the evening to have 2 different experiences with all the animals.
We took a break at about 3:30 to rest our feet so we could make it back for the light show but before we left, we had to check out Asia. In Asia, there is one of the most fun roller coasters – Expedition Everest. For some reason, they always had pretty short wait times (anything under 40 is short to me.) We would get off and then get right back on. The ride also happened to be right outside where the light show was going to happen. So, as the show began to get closer the line began to disappear completely. Needless to say, we stayed there the rest of the night and then caught the end of the light show. Which was amazing. I had never been to Animal Kingdom before – but it was fun!
Day #4 Disney – Hollywood Studios
This is one of my favorite parks at Disney. We were dropped off at the park this day. We started the day at Hollywood Studios with the Star Wars show. Then off to check the wait times at Rock N’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. Found some Rock N’ Face Paint. Lines were too long so we took our new look to meet some characters. Started with Star Wars and then into Disney Junior Land. It was the cutest. Grayson being 9 thought he was too old/cool to be taking a picture with Doc McStuffins but then changed his mind last minute. Doc started teasing him, the pictures came out adorable. He then started doing some sort of breakdance move as he was waiting for Olivia to finish with her picture and then Doc McStuffins started breakdancing with Grayson. It was probably the coolest experience ever. This was supposed to be mine and the kids one baby free day so they could do big kid stuff. While in the line for Rock N’ Roller Coaster after meeting characters and watching shows they were talking about how much they wish Teagan could be there with them. (Heart melting.) Teagan got to the park, we went and watched the Frozen show (it was HILARIOUS & had the whole theater singing.) Then off to the Disney Junior Dance Party. The Dance Party was extremely cute for all of the kids. Babies and ‘tweens’ alike. It was almost 6:00 when we got out and then it started pouring down rain so Teagan didn’t get to meet her Disney Junior characters.
Day #5 – ESPN Wide World of Sports
This was mostly another chill day for us. Hanging by the pool – everyone was getting nervous about the possible Hurricane about to hit Grand Isle and then we had to be at Disney for the runner up Final. When we got to ESPN Wide World of Sports, I dropped everyone off at the front and then went and parked the car because parking there was free. Along with the AAU basketball tournament, there were also baseball and track tournaments happening as well. This park was packed! I had to park at the very end of the park, not close to the basketball arenas at all. The final was played in the Visa building. As far as stadium food goes, if you don’t like pretzels they don’t have anything for you. I was a little disappointed. Hoping to at least get some popcorn, but that was not to be. The boys won their runner up final, so we then had to head to the giant arena for the award ceremony. Of course, it started to rain before we had to make the long walk between stadiums. It was a pretty neat experience. This place had so much stuff going on. After we were done with ESPN and everyone had their souvenirs it was back to the resort to use the amenities.
Day #6 Magic Kingdom
By this point, the kids were Disney Pros or so we thought. We checked out of the resort and we were just going to do Magic Kingdom all day and then head for home (or close to it because of the “hurricane”.) We thought we would leave for an hour or 2 and grab a bite to eat then head back to finish it out. Boy were we wrong! It had been so long since I had been to Magic Kingdom that I forgot how much of a hassle it is to get to the park. Once you pay $25 (there is no point to pay preferred parking at this par) because once you park you still either have to take the ferry or the tram to get to the park. It was overcast which was good, so there was no point in leaving the park once we got there because we did not want to have to load everything back into the car twice.
We decided to hit up space mountain first, but lucky for us they had the move it shake it mousekadance heading down Mainstreet before we got to any other attractions. When we finally got to Space Mountain in Fantasyland – That line was incredibly long, so I highly recommend getting the fast pace days if not weeks in advance! If you need a ride to cool off in the AC on… The Carousel of Progress is a great ride to do just that! There was never a wait and it was 20 minutes of pure Air Conditioning bliss. We went off to Adventureland to catch Pirates of the Carribean – the kids wanted to go back and catch Monsters Inc so the adults and Teagan decided to grab a bite to eat in Adventureland. By the time our bellies were full, it was time for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade!
After that, the boys went their way and I had the girls. We were princess bound! The wait times weren’t bad – It was 40 minutes both for meeting Rapunzel & Tiana and also for meeting Cinderella and Alaina of Avalor. Pro Tip: If you need to charge your phone because you were taking 10,000 pictures of your littles doing anything and everything; they have a charging station in Rapunzel’s village. Teagan’s first ride was on the Carousel. She loved going up and down on the horses. We met up with the rest of our group doing on AC cooldown on the Carousel of progress, it was about 6:00 when it decided to downpour. Thunder, Lightning, the works! We took cover at the lunching pad which was the best thing they ever put at tomorrow land. When it lightened up a little bit we walked back over to Space Mountain to find that they have charging stations there as well! Once we were done in Tomorrowland we headed towards the castle to watch the Happily Ever After light show. When this was over we headed to the exits. Since we took the tram in, we decided to take the Ferry home thinking it would be quicker. DO NOT do that. There are only 2 ferry boats and it will take you at least an hour to get back to your car. Save yourself from the misery of dragging around worn out littles for hours after the light show and just take the tram.
This was my first trip to Disney with kids. I had no idea what was allowed in the park. This was a spur of the moment trip, so I didn’t do my due diligence beforehand. Here is what I know now.
- Backpacks are allowed at the park, not just diaper bags but actual backpacks!! Wagons are not allowed.
- You can bring in your own food & drinks. I recommend freezing water bottles overnight to put in the bag with your other drinks to keep them colder longer. I saw people bring in their own loaves of bread & lunch meat – I wouldn’t go that far but some chips and maybe some uncrustables will go a long way. Every restaurant had uncrustables on the kids menu.
- Bring your own fans! You can expect to spend $25 for the fan water bottle combo at Disney so I recommend bringing your own inside the park. Especially if you have little ones. Bringing one that attaches to the stroller is an added bonus!
- Bring your own stroller, instead of renting. Although it was tempting to rent the double stroller to let the older kids switch out and rest, it was nice having our stroller to be able to lug everything back and forth. Not to mention I saw too many people flipping their double rental stroller. (They were loading up the back too heavy and letting other kids push them, I don’t recommend doing that.) One of the ladies in our group had a walker, and with our stroller, the kids were able to take breaks in the long lines.
- Download the Disney Experience App. It helps you with downloading your fast passes, you get 3 per day and you can put your whole party together. You can also see the wait time for rides at the park which helps plan your route. You can see all the pictures that are taken at the park. From rides to photos in the street, and even character pictures. At the end of your stay, you can buy all the pictures with unlimited downloads for $200. I wish I had downloaded it sooner because you can schedule your fast passes 30 days in advance.
- Lightsticks – for the light shows! They are a big hit, and all the kids love them. Get a handful of them at the dollar store nearest you – and you will be the hit of the light show. Hand it to all the kids around you to have a good time!
- Face painting – This was a favorite at the park, although it was $20 a person – they get free touch-ups throughout the day as long as you keep your receipt. Say good-bye to meltdowns over melted & sweaty face paint we went back twice!
- Have something to keep the kids entertained for an hour or so in the lines. I wish I had brought a deck of cards or something to help them pass the time. We played a lot of I-Spy, Colors, and Rock, Paper, Scissors.
- If you have small kids that aren’t able to ride the rides. Hang in the line until you get to the part where you can see an attendant and let them know you want to do the rider switch. It is an amazing program they have going on at Disney. When you have your group you have to let the attendant know – then the group can break up. The adult with the baby can choose 2 other people to get fast passes to ride the ride with them when they get off of it with the rest of the group. This was perfect for the kids because they got to ride the rides twice super fast!
- Magic Bands are a must – I am going to be completely honest with you and tell you that I thought they were a waste of money! By day #2 in Disney having to constantly keep taking out the cards every time we wanted a picture or to use the fast passes. The magic bands made it so much easier when the group wanted to split up. I didn’t trust the kids to not lose their tickets!
- Don’t forget your autograph books – I honestly thought that the kids were going to think they were too old for autographs, but that was not the case. We waited to meet the characters and then after a few, I was scrambling to the nearest gift shop to buy a pen and an autograph book.
- Bring a battery pack/Charger – Between using the Disney Experience App, taking pictures, and calling all of the members of your party your phone is going to die. You will want to bring a battery pack because the only place I know there are charging stations is in Magic Kingdom. Rapunzels village has outlets at the tables, and space mountain has a charging station and they also sell the battery packs to be traded out. $30 for one of those battery packs.
- Check the event schedule for after-hours activities! They only let in a certain amount of guests, so you have lower wait times and an experience that you will never forget!
I hope this is as helpful for you as it will be to me and my family during our next Disney World Vacation! Pictures of our trip coming soon!